Paulie Malignaggi at Amir Khan pre-fight press conference in 2009. Credit; Bryan Horowitz. Used under Creative Commons

Following a decision to leave Conor McGregor’s camp due to sparring pictures that pictured him in a bad light being leaked; former two-time world boxing champion Paulie Malignaggi has opened up about his time with the McGregor camp including the two sparring sessions in which the “knockdown” image stemmed from.

Despite having previously been a vocal critic of McGregor’s decision to cross over to the sport of boxing, giving a series of negative interviews about the Irishman’s chances in the ring; Malignaggi insists he joined The Notorious’ camp for no other reason than to help prepare McGregor for his boxing match with Floyd Mayweather and only left due to being mistreated and the lack of respect he was shown.

In an extensive interview with Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour Malignaggi opened up about his experience in the UFC star’s training camp branding Conor McGregor a “dirtbag” and a “scumbag”.

“It’s something that I didn’t really ask for,” Malignaggi said. “I showed up with the best intentions in camp. At a certain point you start to realize you’re being used as a pawn where somebody is trying to get ahead at your expense and not through your help. My intention was to try to get Conor ahead through my help in camp. I realized pretty early it was always going to be at my expense.”

Malignaggi first arrived on July 19 and admitted from the moment he touched down in Las Vegas that something didn’t feel right; despite just coming off of an eight-hour cross country flight the former boxing champ was told he would be sparring eight rounds with McGregor the next day, something he found very peculiar.

“Now, for people who aren’t familiar with a training camp, no one is ever expected to do 12 straight (rounds). The fighter in camp does 12 straight, but when the fighter in camp does 12 straight, he alternates (sparring partners).

The pair sparred for their first time on July 20, this was the session that resulted in the uploading of a photo which saw McGregor showboating with his hands behind his back. Malignaggi did admit to the Irishman getting the better of him but put it down to poor conditioning on his behalf and that the 29-year old had still plenty of work to do on increasing his boxing intelligence.

The following day the American arrived to the gym for their second day of sparring, the session that referee Joe Cortez said “got out of control.” Here he was left frustrated to see that McGregor had brought a number of people along with him including Lorenzo Fertitta, Dana White and his agent.

“Another thing checked off in my mind because usually sparring is so private I couldn’t even bring in a trainer for my corner. I’d just have his sparring partners work my corner,” he explained.

“It was so private that you had to leave your phone in a box so nobody could sneak pictures or record. It was so tight, yet he had some dignitaries come in on this day.”

Malignaggi spoke of his anger towards the situation after feeling that McGregor invited all of his dignitaries to talk about how good the MMA star looked at his expense.

“They just didn’t rub me the right away,” Malignaggi said. “It wasn’t like I was mad, but I said, ‘There’s something fishy about these people.’ They put me in some kind of crack house, they had me spar eight rounds after I just got off of a plane the day after, he put up this picture. I wasn’t mad, but I was starting to become guarded.”

Whilst describing the events of the second sparring session Malignaggi explained that McGregor took the first five rounds of sparring, from then on Malignaggi spoke of how from round six he began to come into his own.

“From about six rounds on, he became very hittable,” said Malignaggi. “So much more hittable that I was putting more weight on my shots and sitting down more on my shots, and of course, the body shots started to affect him more and more.

“Of course, I’m talking the whole time, because the first time he made sure to talk the whole time. Now I’m talking more and more and I’m letting him know, ‘you can’t hang, these body shots feel good, right?’.”

The leaked photo of the alleged “knockdown” supposedly took place in the eighth, ninth or tenth round, a moment where the former boxing champ says is in complete contrast to the image that was portrayed on social media.

“The funny thing about the push down was this, it was during one of his worst moments. He pushed me down on the floor to try and catch a break and the instant I went down I got back up. I remember when I was down I continued to trash talk. I said, ‘Buddy, you need a break?’ because Cortez had to wipe off my gloves,” Malignaggi said.

“I started to take it to him right after that. I told him, ‘you don’t get no breaks here’, and I started to hit him with more body shots. I said, ‘take those, they don’t feel good’ and I could hear him whimper off the body shots, too.”

After two good final rounds from McGregor and the end of 12 intense rounds of sparring Malignaggi was under the illusion that him and the UFC champion had sorted out their differences.

“We took a picture in the ring. Everybody gave us a hand. We just did 12 hard rounds, it didn’t matter who got the better of it, there is a respect thing after you spend 36 minutes in a ring with a guy and you’re trying to beat the s**t out of each other.

Once the session was over the 36-year old reported of how himself and McGregor praised one another’s hard work but says it was only moments later he knew that McGregor was a ‘d*ckhead’ and the real issue arose.

“Then I said, ‘Conor, do me a favor, bro. No more of these crazy pictures’. The week before, when I was working at Broner/Garcia, the media was there for the fight week because that was a big fight in boxing. All everybody wanted to know about was these pictures.

“I told Conor that it becomes very hard for me to not disclose the NDA that I have when you’re putting up pictures of me,” Malignaggi said.

“I am not one of the other sparring partners. Nobody knows who the other sparring partners are. Everyone knows who I am. When you put up a picture of me in sparring, the media rush comes to me and I have to answer questions that I don’t want to deal with.”

McGregor’s response did not fill the former boxing man with much confidence that the sparring sessions would remain private.

“He looks at me, and I’m expecting, ‘you’re right, Paulie you got it, let’s just keep this good work going.’

“Instead, he looks at me and he gives me this smirk, laughs at me and he starts walking away from me, explained Malignaggi.

“He gives me his back, he’s walking away towards the showers and he’s like, ‘Ha ha, I don’t know Paulie. We got some good ones in those last two rounds. I don’t know about that.’”

It turns out however that Malignaggi instincts would prove to be right as the moment involving the alleged knockdown was caught by a photographer of McGregor’s before finding itself published over social media. This proved to be the nail in the coffin in terms of a partnership between the American who then decided to leave the McGregor camp.

“This guy is one of the biggest dirtbags I’ve ever met in my life bar none,” he said. “I was amazed at what a dirtbag this person is. I don’t care if we never speak again. My life is fine if I never see Conor McGregor again.”

Speaking on the MMA Hour, Malignaggi also went on to question the journey of the Irishman throughout his career due to the poor experience he endured whilst in Las Vegas.

“I was dumbfounded by the way things were. It’s just about status with him. It makes me doubt if he ever really went through a tough time in his life like they try to say he did. If somebody went through that tough a time in life just a few years ago, they wouldn’t treat people who were not as fortunate as him that bad.”

Malignaggi believes the reason he was treated this way comes down to nothing other than ego.

“Because he’s a scumbag. He doesn’t like that. He doesn’t want to be put in those positions. He wants to be the front runner,” Malignaggi said. “He wants to be the guy who always has the advantage because when he has an advantage he’s a big man. When he gets tired, he wants out of a fight.”

Originally Malignaggi spoke of his excitement to have the chance to be involved in such an event but admits he is only left with regret now.

“I regret everything. I don’t want to be famous in my life. In my 20s I did but everyone goes through that stage. I’m happy with what I have, I don’t need to be famous and I didn’t this to gain some social media followers,” said Malignaggi.

“I wanted it to be a new experience, and to add to the book of memories in my mind. It’s certainly in my book of memories but it wasn’t the experience I wanted it to be.”